|Eagle River homeowners killed a black bear that sneaked into a chicken coop and ate the owner's favorite bird on Friday, hours after a different bear "mouthed" the leg of a girl at a neighborhood playground near Elmendorf Air Force Base.
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The chicken coop bandit was one of six young bears that have been shot in the Anchorage municipality -- mostly black bears and mostly in Eagle River -- over roughly the past two weeks, said area Fish and Game biologist Rick Sinnott.
In other words: Stay alert. Bear Season 2010 is getting busy with human-bear encounters on the rise.
One of the most recent began at about 10 p.m. Friday, as George Drummond sat dozing in front of the television in his home off Eagle River Loop.
A bang at the door sent Drummond's nerves humming. There's a bear in your coop, his neighbor said.
Drummond, 62, looked outside to see a 150-pound blackie eating his favorite chicken, an Araucana named Goldie. Drummond appreciated the bird's greenish eggs and friendly demeanor.
"She's more of a people chicken," he said.
Before wandering into his coop, the bear had already hassled a neighbor who had small children at the house, said Drummond, who picked up a garden hose. He set it on "jet" and sprayed.
"I was squirting it in the head and the face, and it just looked at me," he said.
Drummond said he fired his tiny .25-caliber handgun four times into the ground to scare the animal away. The bear then moved toward his neighbor, Drummond said.
It kind of made an advance towards him. So he gave it a couple shots with the .45," he said.
Dying, the bear crossed the road where Drummond said he killed it with two more gun shots from the .25.
To the east, a ranger also shot a black bear at the Eagle River Nature Center on Friday, Sinnott said. "It was trying to get in all the doors and couldn't be driven away."
Sinnott says other recent bear shootings include:
• A brown bear killed after tangling with a dog in the Fire Lake area of Eagle River.
• A chicken coop raid by another black bear, this time on May 26 on Glacier View Drive. Jeff Johnson shot the 150-pound animal after seeing it scratching around the plywood coop late at night, and police later finished it off.
• Michael Weiman shot a brown bear May 30 after his wife encountered it while walking with the couple's boxer near their home in Eagle River canyon, near the nature center.
• A black bear shot, possibly by the Division of Forestry, sometime last week in the vicinity of a camp used by firefighters in Eklutna valley.
All the bears looked to be about 2 or 3 years old, Sinnott said, and the recent cool weather may be behind the spike in encounters as the bears grow more active.
While many of the shootings came in Eagle River, people are running into bears across Southcentral.
At about 4 p.m. Friday at a home off of DeArmoun Road in South Anchorage, a black bear wandered into the open garage, making a mess of the place, said Wildlife Trooper William Connors. A woman and her kids were home at the time, he said.
"The husband was wanting to go hunting the bear through Anchorage to shoot it," Connors said.
Around the same time, a black bear reportedly walked up to four girls at a playground in the Moose Crossing military housing between Elmendorf Air Force Base and Fort Richardson, said Elmendorf Deputy Public Affairs Officer Stephen Lee.
"Three of them, I'm told, hit the ground, to kind of just play dead," Lee said.
The fourth girl stood and talked to the bear, "Trying to make herself as big as possible to scare the bear away," he said.
The bear, which looked to be about 3 years old, approached one of the girls who was laying down and "mouthed" her leg, Lee said.
The girl screamed and the bear split, running for the woods.
Military wildlife agents searched for the animal until about 9 p.m., but couldn't find it, Lee said.
Lee did not identify the girl who came in contact with the bear. He didn't know her exact age, but estimated she is about 9. She had a mark on her skin, but no puncture wounds, he said. "I was told that she was back in the housing area a few hours later."
Playing dead is normally considered a last resort and isn't a good idea with all bears, said Valerie Connor, conservation director for the Alaska Center for the Environment.
Here's the general theory, she said: If attacked by a black bear, fight back, but curl into a ball and protect your neck from brown bears.
Connor was among a group of Anchorage Bear Committee members, troopers and others at a kind of bear-safety meeting called by South Anchorage Rep. Charisse Millett Saturday at Ruth Arcand Park.
There, Craig Bledsoe of Eagle River told the story of the black bear that climbed high into his kitchen. Bledsoe, a member of the Alaska Machine Gun Association, was in another room working on photos from the club's recent statewide shoot in Anderson.
His daughter had been making a cheesecake, Bledsoe said. Maybe that's what prompted the bear to climb his siding like Spider-Man. The 63-year-old pilot grabbed his Russian-made assault shotgun and shooed the bear away -- no shots fired.
"You would think that you could leave you sliding door open three stories up," he said.
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